French-Style Yogurt Cake, Muscat, and Philip Glass

It was the yogurt cake that did it. Philip Glass also played a major role, but we'll get to that in a minute. About a month ago, as I was finishing my dinner, I had a craving for cake. Not cake with icing, just cake. How peculiar because I usually don't have cake lying around, nor had I been inspired to cook anything besides pad thai for weeks. But I remembered this French-style yogurt cake that Molly Wizenberg wrote about in her book A Homemade Life. I checked all the ingredients, deciding to use oranges instead of lemons, and set to work. When it came out of the oven, I made the glaze, poured it over top, and waited for it to cool. Around 10 PM, I cut myself a piece, leaned my back against the counter, and ate it in three bites. It was simple and moist and honest. If someone had served me this cake for tea, I would have jumped on the table to do a dance. I put half in the freezer and ate the rest for breakfast with scrambled eggs, after lunch, and late at night with a small glass of muscat (a sweet French white wine that keeps a long time and is delicious with yogurt cakes, I discovered).

One afternoon, I was translating and listening to Julie Nesrallah's show Tempo on CBC Radio 2, a to-die-for afternoon classical program, when Philip Glass came on. I'd been listening to Steve Reich for months and Glass studied under Reich. The piece she played was from the Hours soundtrack, a film about Virginia Woolf told through the eyes of three woman in different eras, inspired by the book by Michael Cunningham. I loved the movie when I saw it almost six years ago, and I loved it just as much when I watched it again last week. Virginia Woolf is one of my heroes and now so is Glass. He wrote the soundtrack and it is phenomenal. The music is dominated by string instruments that soar through these emotional repetitive passages that some how all tie together. We so often listen to music as background noise, but this was impossible for me to ignore. Then, I ordered three CD's online and haven't listened to much else since. I still come home from a long day and put on this soundtrack, flop down in my big orange kitchen chair, and listen listen listen. Glass has accompanied me while I eat, walk, and sleep. A great match for a late night slice of yogurt cake.

It's spring and I feel like I can write again, not to mention cook again. What joy!

French-Style Yogurt Cake with Orange

As adapted from M. Wizenberg

Yogurt cakes were made in France using a 125 ml yogurt jar for a measuring cup. Since we don't have yogurt jars like that anymore (sob) Molly's measured it out for us.

She calls for all canola oil but also suggests using a light, fruity olive oil. I used half and half, and it was wonderful. Next time I'd be tempted to use all olive oil.

The cake

1 1/2 C white flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tsp orange zest

1/2 C well stirred plain whole-milk yogurt (not non-fat!)
1 C white sugar
3 eggs
1/4 C vegetable oil, such as canola
1/4 C good, fruity olive oil

- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter, line it with parchment paper, and grease it too. (If you don't do this, it's alright, you'll just have to be extra careful about taking the cake out of the pan.)
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the orange zest.
- In a large bowl mix together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, and stir well.
- Add the flour to the large bowl and stir until just combined.
- Add the oil and stir well. It will look like a big oily mess, but it'll come together.
- Pour it into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is lightly brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert it first onto a plate and then back onto the rack. Place the rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

- Make the syrup

The syrup

1/4 C powdered sugar
1/4 C orange juice

- Combine sugar and juice with a whisk.
- Pour the syrup over the cake. Let it the cake cool completely. The syrup will sink into the top layer.

*Molly calls for a little icing made from 1 C powdered sugar and 3 TBS of orange juice, but really, I'm not sure this cake needs it. But if you feel so inclined, be my guest. You pour it on right before serving.

* You could also substitute 1/2 of ground almonds for 1/2 of flour.

Finding our Veggies

Yes, I recognize that Jamie Oliver is all the rage at the moment, what with a Television program and a revolution and all, but I cannot help but continue to gush about him/his book/his mission.

As a long time Jamie Oliver Fan (that British accent and chucking around of frozen TV dinners pretty much sold me at 12) Matt got me his Food Revolution book in December for Christmas. We both have been working our way through it. I will admit we are adept cooks - but I have to say the recipes are not only straightforward, but delicious (something I've always appreciated about Oliver). Our evening meals and subsequent leftovers have since been elevated to include vegetables (!), spices (!), fancy cheese(!), etc. without breaking our pocket books.

WHAT? Haven't I spent over a year complaining that we CAN'T eat like this because it is to expensive? Turns out, I maybe wasn't looking in the right places. Jamie's food revolution book has turned me on to the veg and nutrition I was over looking, and it is stuff we can afford - snow peas, ginger root, lemons -- all of these elements feel wonderful to be eating and creating with and cannot be more grateful of the reminder and the kick and the pants to eat more than creamy pasta dishes. AND Matt is on board too (an even larger feat).

I made salmon en croute (for two!) last week - and although Matt got made fun of for having "fancy food" leftovers the next day at work - this was actually a remarkably easy and satisfying dinner. The only frustration/concern I have is that the quality of our salmon was lame. It was the evil Frozen-from-God-knows-where. Unfortunately the delicious, sustainable meats are still a bit beyond our reach (but big hooray for Basil).

Salmon en Croute pour deux (a la Jamie Oliver)
What you need:
1/2 lbs. salmon fillets, no bones no skins
1 tomato
Basil Leaves
Olive Tapanade (check out TJ Maxx - they have this kind of thing for CHEAP!)
1/4 lbs. mozzarella cheese (Buffalo! Buffalo! Try for the Buffalo!)
1 sheet puff pastry (Frozen sections)
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil
1 egg

What You Do:
Thaw 1 sheet of puff pastry (and fish if you are using Evil frozen like me).
Prepare salmon by rubbing in a good dribble of olive oil and salt and pepper.
Find a baking sheet with a bit of a lip.
Slice tomato, wash and pick basil leaves from stalk.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Flour counter surface and spread out sheet of puff pastry. Roll out thin until the same shape and size as desired baking sheet. Place rolled puff pastry on baking sheet.
Arrange salmon on the center of prepared puff pastry. Spread a few healthy spoonfuls of tapanade on salmon. Arrange basil leaves across the top, covering fillet and tapande. Then arrange slices of tomato down the center. Crumble or shred mozzarella and sprinkle on top. Add a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper over the whole shebang.
Fold and curl puff pastry around the salmon fillet and toppings, trapping everything inside.
Crimp the edges and brush puff pastry with slightly beaten egg to seal edges.
Place in oven, bake until puff pastry is COMPLETELY puffed (bottom too! watch it, be patient, whisper sweet nothings in its ear).
Remove, cut, enjoy. Repeat for lunch next day and daze your coworkers.

(Reason number 1,543 to engage in Oliver recipes: They almost always come out looking as good as the pictures, unlike the evil Texas pastry lady who shall remained unnamed.)

P.S. Here are some other people doing really cool things with the Food Revolution Book/Concept:

A year of Food Revolution

Fed Up With School Lunch

Dear Kelsey,

I'm only eating salads and pad thai. They're delicious, however. Well, I also made stollen. And dyed eggs for easter. But I'm uninspired to write. And a little uninspired to cook.

I'm also questioning my writing because of this techniques class I took. Apparently, everything I knew about punctuation and sentence combining was wrong. Well, not wrong, but not right either. I also don't know what I want to write about. I'm tired of writing about lunch with jude in the living room. Or love. Or myself.

I think I will start cooking more though. I want to eat furiously fast dishes with huge tastes. Like pad thai! (Thank you Matthew Amster-Burton.) Light dishes too. Things that go down easily, digest easily, come out easily... ha!

Also, cooking has become a very solitary thing. Everyone always said to me before: don't you get tired of cooking for yourself? I would reply, No! I love cooking for myself. Plus, there's the blog... I was very adamant that the "I'm-tired-of-cooking-for-myself-syndrome" wouldn't happen to me. But, what d'you know, I'm tired of cooking for myself. Looks like I need a new cooking buddy. Where are you hiding friend! You'll be: Preferably male. Preferably smart. Preferably Eccentric, Artistic, and Weird. Preferably hilarious. Preferably good in bed... ha!

Then, if I start cooking, maybe I'll start writing.

Thinking of you and Tarte Tatin, and love, of course (!)

- Jude